My round-up appears so late in December that it seems a shame not to integrate the reviews that have been added to the challenge in the closing weeks of the year. November was relatively quiet, with only six reviews, while ten were reviewed in December.
Word-of-mouth is such a powerful force, and it was good to see books added to the challenge that have been featured during previous round-ups. Kate@Booksaremyfavouriteandbest reviewed Jessie Cole’s Staying: A Memoir (featured in September) and Cass Moriarty reviewed Bri Lee’s Eggshell Skull,bringing the number of reviews to four. Janine Rizzetti added a third review of Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French, and three reviews have been recorded of Caroline Baum’s Only after Angharad Lodwick’s review has been added to the total. N@ncy added a review of Anita Heiss’s Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, bringing the total to four, and Angharad Lodwick enjoyed listening to the podcast of Rosie Waterland’s The Anti-Cool Girl (six reviews). Alexis Wright’s Tracker won the Stella Prize this year and Bill Holloway’s review on Bill’s The Australian Legend site is the fourth received by the challenge. Both Amanda@Mrs B’s Book reviews and Rebecca Bowyer at Story Addict reviewed Janet Lee’s The Killing of Louisa, the fictionalized telling of the execution of Louisa Collins.
Louisa Collins’ case is taken up in Caroline Overington’s Last Woman Hanged, a non-fiction treatment of Janet Lee’s protagonist. Ashleigh Meikle the Book Muse noted that
In Last Woman Hanged, Caroline Overington looks at Louisa’s life before she was accused, her marriages and the events that led to each death, based on evidence and documentation that is available. As she observes throughout the book, the lack of Louisa’s own voice in letters or diaries illustrates the lack of power and agency women had in the colony of New South Wales during the nineteenth century…. This is an intriguing read, about part of Australia’s history not often taught in courses, and one that has to be sought out by those seeking to learn more. (review here)
Crime from the ‘other side’ is explored in Leigh Straw’s Lillian Armfield: Australia’s First Detective. Cass Moriarty reviewed it, writing that
Anyone interested in true crime will appreciate the depth of research Leigh Straw has devoted to this book. She has unearthed a treasure trove of facts about the history of Sydney’s underworld and organised crime and takes the reader from the 1920’s through decade by decade of crimes from drug-trafficking, opium dens and sly-grog shops, to rape and murder. And for those interested in feminism, Lillian Armfield was an example of an early feminist who entered a man’s world with enthusiasm and diplomacy,… The book is quite research-heavy, but this is balanced by the many anecdotal stories Leigh Straw has included about Lillian’s personal life and family, and the changing face of the police force over the years (review here)
The interviews about girlhood contained in Gwenda Beed Davey’s Girl Talk: One Hundred Years of Australian Girls’ Childhood stretch across the length of the twentieth century. Janine Rizzetti at Resident Judge wrote:
I enjoyed reading each of the interviews, particularly the ones set further back in the past. Each chapter is between 15 and about 30 pages in length, and the women´s voices come through the narrative. Even though they are mainly told from an adult perspective, they capture the diversity of lived experience across one hundred years, in a range of settings, focused on a life–stage that is too easily overwritten by later events and sensibilities (review here).
Fiona Wright’s Small Acts of Disappearance is also a series of essays, but they are arranged around the concept of ‘hunger’ from a range of academic, cultural and personal perspectives. In her review, Anne Jenner noted:
This isn’t a victim’s story, nor is it a survival manual or a treatise on recovery. It’s a collection of insights, reflections and personal revelations on an eating disorder that’s still the subject of widespread misconceptions…. her 10 essays explore the concept of hunger, both in its political and personal contexts and investigate its expression in literature, language and writing. While Wright is frank about revealing her own story, the writing is less of a memoir than a thoughtful interrogation of the nature of eating disorder and the kinds of paradoxes it both hides and reveals (review here)
There were two reviews of Anne Summer’s new biography Unfettered and Alive. Calzean wrote:
Anne Summers documents her life from the age of 30 till now. Her achievements could make the basis of great novels, except they are true. Author, feminist, journalist, adviser to two Prime Ministers, editor, leader at Greenpeace. She has made great changes in the lives of women through her activism, obtaining changes in Government policy and producing articles, journals and books of great significance…. There is some personal stuff in this book but this is more a memoir of the difficulties, achievements, setbacks and hope that make Anne Summers one special person (review here)
Rebecca Bowyer found that she needed to read this book differently:
I soon learned that this is a book that needs to be read slowly. I usually finish a book in a few days, maybe a week. I’ve been chipping away at this one for about 6 weeks in between other (slightly lighter) reads. It’s incredible and it’s important but there’s so much to get your head around as a reader, you need time to absorb and process each chunk….(review here)
Finally, Clare Wright’s second book in a projected trilogy on Australian democracy, You Daughters of Freedom looked at feminists and social change from an earlier era. Sue from Whispering Gums wrote:
Well, that was a tome and a half! And in saying this I’m referring less to the length of Clare Wright’s new history, You daughters of freedom: The Australians who won the vote and inspired the world, than to its depth and richness. There are, in fact, two main stories going on here – the story of women’s suffrage in Australia and England, and that of Australia’s leadership in the world, at the time, in terms of progressive politics, of forward-thinking social legislation…. It’s a complex [tome] which juggles the stories of five quite disparate women, from the late nineteenth century to the second decade of the twentieth. And it is extensively researched, with each page containing not one but several quotes from mostly primary sources (such as newspapers, speeches, and documents from personal papers.) A daunting work for researcher and reader alike…. but the way she says it is fresh, compelling, and devoid of dry or, worse, obfuscating academese. (review here)
About: I’m Janine Rizzetti and I blog at the immodestly-named The Resident Judge of Port Phillip where I indulge my love of reading, podcasts, history and seeing films and exhibitions just before they close. I am a historian, interested in Australian and colonial history, officially retired but more occupied than I thought I would be with my local historical society, learning Spanish and now- mah jong!